White House officials say the object was flying at an altitude of about 40,000 feet and posed a “reasonable threat” to the safety of civilian flights.
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon shot down an unidentified object flying in US airspace off the coast of Alaska on Friday at the behest of President Joe Biden, White House officials said.
The object was flying at an altitude of about 40,000 feet and posed a “reasonable threat” to the safety of civilian aviation, said John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council. He described the object as the size of a small car.
It was the second time in a week that US officials shot down a flying object over the US Fighter jets shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Saturday off the coast of South Carolina.
White House officials found major differences between the two episodes. Kirby said it is not yet known who the object belonged to, and he did not say it was a hot air balloon. Officials also could not say if he was wearing any surveillance equipment. He also did not yet know where it came from and what its purpose was.
Kirby said that the combat pilots, after visually inspecting the object, confirmed that it was not manned.
The object fell into the cold water, and officials expected to be able to recover the debris more quickly than from the huge balloon last week.
The development comes nearly a week after the US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it passed over key military sites across North America. China insisted that the flight was an accident involving a civilian vessel and threatened consequences.
Biden gave the order, but wanted the balloon shot down even earlier. He was advised that the best time to operate would be over water. Military officials determined that dropping it above the ground from an altitude of 60,000 feet posed an unreasonable danger to people on the ground.
China responded that it reserved the right to “take further measures” and criticized the US for “an obvious overreaction and serious violation of international practice.”
This is breaking news that will be updated.